Social science shapes policy, fosters inclusivity and promotes sustainable development

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

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Cosmos has invited the Australian learned academies to review 2023 and explore 2024 in this end of year series.

By Richard Holden


Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

2023 was an extraordinary year for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, marked by some key milestones. The vibrant Social Sciences Week (every September) embraced its sixth year, showcasing the social sciences through 85+ events across the country. From lively discussions on sport’s societal role to the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Social Sciences, the week captivated audiences across academic, policymaking, and public realms through live theatre, lectures and competitions.

Notably, the Academy awarded Rechnitz Fund grants to exceptional early-career Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social science researchers. These grants of $20,000 each support innovative projects including developing a framework for Torres Strait Islander women to chart their communities’ vision for their future; on understanding the experience of culturally inclusive education in schools, and of antecedents to online racism around the Voice referendum.

The Academy is excited to be launching a new social sciences school education program. This initiative comprises expert-reviewed curriculum resources in crucial social science subjects, complemented by an inspiring ‘Social Sciences are Everywhere‘ campaign to promote study and career pathways.

Additionally, the Academy is spearheading a new research collaboration in Asia and the Pacific, championed through the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils and bolstered by support from the Canadian Government’s International Development Research Centre.

Social science: The end of social networks as we know them?

Dream for 2024:

The Academy’s aspirations for 2024 are ambitious and purpose driven. Collaborations with government and academic bodies signal a shift toward valuing expert insights in addressing global challenges.

There are many promising signs, with the Commonwealth Government and many State and Territory governments actively engaging with experts and academic bodies, including our and other Academies and Australian Council of Learned Academies. We envision a society that not only values the contributions of social scientists but actively seeks their expertise in addressing pressing global challenges.

There are numerous reviews of our universities and research systems underway including the Universities Accord and the review of the Australian Research Council, among others. A dream that will be shared by many in the sector is a response from Government to these reviews that clarifies and embeds the purposes of our publicly funded research system in a way that provides for more and appropriate funding, and reduces the inefficiency, duplication, unnecessary competition and perverse incentives that have developed over decades within the current system. Most researchers get into their fields to make a positive contribution to society, and the raw intellect, creativity and problem-solving capacity that exists within our research workforce represents an enormous public resource. To the extent our Governments can unlock this capacity through policy, the better off all Australians will ultimately be.

This would involve recognition of the profound impact that social science research can have on shaping policies, fostering inclusivity, and promoting sustainable development.

Looking ahead, we hope to see a surge in young people choosing social sciences as their academic and professional pursuit, inspired by the potential for positive change that this field offers.

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